Bradford Church of the Nazarene 10/12/14
The god of Pleasure
1 Kings 16:29:30, 18:16–46
Last week we began our study into the gods at war within us for control of our heart and life. Scripture reminded us that the Lord God of all of creation is indeed a jealous God. He is not envious of the things we have, desiring those things for Himself. The God of heaven and earth is jealous for our heart; He wants and will accept only those whose hearts are completely His.
This week’s emphasis is on the god of pleasure. In a book that I have been reading entitled “When God Doesn’t Make Sense”, the author recounted horrific hardships endured by soldiers of both the north and south during the Civil War.
Troops would at times march for up to two weeks with only dry biscuits called hardtack and coffee to sustain them. Soldiers frequently spent sleepless nights in cold and rain and yet many of the soldiers expressed their determination to serve for a cause that they so deeply believed in. The north alone lost 200,000 soldiers to diseases that often devastated those weakened by poor nutrition and fatigue.
To those hardships the author of the book contrasted the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy. In that passage the apostle challenges the young disciple to: Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus... who wants to please his commanding officer.
One of the many gods at war in our lives is the god of pleasure. Many of the pleasures that we live and sacrifice for were given to us as a gift from the Lord God. Incredibly though we somehow gravitate toward worshipping the gift instead of the giver.
In the bible’s book of Joshua just prior to his death Joshua calls upon the people of God to recommit themselves to the Lord. In Joshua 24:15 he declares:” Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
We like the Israelites have to make a choice as to whom we will serve and we have to make those choices each day. The challenge is; will you serve the gods that temporarily make you feel good or will you serve the living and true God? That was the question that Joshua asked the people.
For a time after crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the people did faithfully follow God, but little by little their commitment weakened. They began bowing to the gods of pleasure while continuing to go through the motions of worshipping the one true God.
Do you recognize the same tendency in your own life; the inclination to pursue the things that make you feel good or makes you feel like you are somehow in control?
It’s not at all surprising that when the Israelites began worshipping the Canaanite god Baal that God would allow a three year draught to strike the land. Baal was after all, believed to be a weather god that made the rain.
If you go back to the time following the death of Joshua in the book of Judges 1, God blesses the Israelites faithfulness by driving out the Canaanites before them. In Judges 2 the people begin to embrace the beliefs and gods of the Canaanites. In response to the people’s lack of faith God begins to withdraw His hand of protection over the chosen people. This flow of events reminded me of God’s words in the book of Ezekiel 22:30 30 “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it...
Throughout the remainder of the book of Judges God allows vast hardship into the lives of His people due to disobedience. Then in an act of love and mercy, God sends men and women to sound the alarm and lead the people back to faithful obedience to Him.
After the time of the Judges, scripture tells us that the Israelites continued down this road until they finally came to the place where they insisted on having an earthly king to rule over them.
In 1 Samuel 8:7-8 we are told that God told the elderly Samuel: …it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. … forsaking me and serving other gods…
So often we like the people of Israel are at a crossroads, hesitating and pondering which path to take. In today’s passage of scripture Elijah calls the people to make a commitment. It wasn’t that they were against the Lord God. The problem is that they were trying to worship BOTH the Lord and Baal. People often try to do the same thing today. Some may even go to church on Sunday morning and live for their false gods the rest of the week; they are double minded with no real commitment to the Lord. But the living God is a jealous God and settles for nothing less than ALL of you.
In today’s passage of scripture the Lord God has allowed a devastating drought to strike the land. The situation has gotten so bad that even king Ahab goes out in search for a spring of water and some grass in the valleys so that they could keep the horses and mules alive.
Maybe you have wondered why the Lord God allowed the drought. Why not a plague like the Egyptians experienced when Pharaoh refuse to set God’s people free? Why not an earthquake or a terrifying storm that produced destructive lightning?
1 Ki 18:21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.
These were the Israelites, the chosen people of God. Why would they remain silent? Why didn’t they recognize that they had strayed away from the Lord God, seeking forgiveness and recommit themselves to the Lord?
As we said earlier, the reason is that they believed Baal was the pagan god of lightning and rain; the god who made their crops grow. As Elijah asked the question: who will you serve? The people standing before him may have thought that the pagan god had the hometown advantage.
They not only believed Baal to be the god of storms, but Mt. Carmel was also regarded as the sacred dwelling place of Baal. They must have wondered how powerful could the Lord God be against him under these cirumstances?
The Lord had allowed this devastating three year drought in order to show Himself powerful over even the most highly believed in pagan god. Now the Lord God had determined that the time was right to demonstrate just how powerless the god’s of this world really are.
For Israel God allowed a multiyear drought from rain but a lack of rain isn’t the only type of drought that we may experience is it? What about a famine in our income or marriage? What about a drought in our work or business? What about the lack of a sense of peace and security in life?
God allows droughts into our lives not to punish us but to compel us to take our focus and desire off of the false gods in our lives in order to turn our heart back to Him.
Ever since sin entered into the human experience mankind has struggled with the pursuit of pleasure over its commitment to the Lord God. Never before in modern history though has the sins of the “god of pleasure” manifested their destruction more than the world is now experiencing.
The late 1960’s ushered in the sexual revolution that precipitated a moral decline. That moral decline continues to devastate individuals and families yet today. Families and communities suffer from high rates of divorce, babies being born out of wedlock and single parent homes. All of this due to what the proponents of the sexual revolution claimed would set us free.
The dominion of the god of pleasure certainly isn’t limited to the sexuality of the world is it? We live in a consumer oriented mindset where debt and instant access to anything we want has become the god of the current generations. Isn’t it time that the church recommits itself to wholly worshipping only the Lord God?
In today’s passage Elijah called for two oxen to be brought to them. The first was killed and its pieces placed on the altar of Baal. The false prophets danced, chanted, cried out to their god and cut themselves in an attempt to move him to action.
Baal was the god of the storms so surely there would be no problem in delivering a bolt of lightning to burn the wood and sacrifice on the altar.
The passage tells us that they continued this from morning until at noon. Around noon Elijah began to taunt the false prophets. Shout louder he cried. Maybe your god no longer hears very well. Maybe he’s sleeping or maybe he’s simply ignoring you!
I have had people ask why God would allow heartbreak and suffering into their lives. I’ve even had some imply if not directly say that if God is really God He wouldn’t allow things like that to happen.
The bible tells us that we are incapable of knowing or understanding the wisdom of God but scripture also tells us that God does allow droughts of various kinds into the lives of people, even Christians when they begin to place too much emphasis on the things of this world.
By that I am not implying that every negative thing that happens in your life is in effect God slapping your hand. We all make choices every day that have the potential to help us along on the road to blessings or to send us down the road of regret and needless suffering.
Elijah’s taunting drove the prophets of Baal to an almost frenzied state. They shout even louder than before and cut themselves until the blood flowed. After calling on their god for hours the prophets had nothing but exhaustion to show for their sincerity.
There’s something that we all need to remember here. Sincerity is no substitute for the truth. The false prophets were sincere in their worship of Baal but that didn’t change the fact that they were still worshipping a false god. Scripture teaches us that good intentions are no substitute for genuine faith.
The same is true today. You may be sincere in your devotion to your children or grandchildren. You may be diligent in protecting your flow of income. You may even be saintly in your devotion to the church; but if you place anything before your relationship with the Lord you are also sincerely wrong.
History is littered with people that did not believe in Christ Jesus. Some of those people were even willing to die for their beliefs; but even that level of commitment is no proof that their beliefs are right. There is only one Lord and God that created everything that exists.
There is only one God that reigns over all of time eternal. He is the Lord God that sent His Son Christ Jesus our Lord to die for your sins that you may live.
He died and rose again, breaking the chains of death for anyone that has enough faith to believe upon Him and Him only as the Lord of their life.
The false gods of pleasure come in multiple forms. They could be the god of physical comfort or the god of financial comfort and security. Your god of pleasure could be the god of fitting in with those around you or the god of possessions.
Elijah asked: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him;
It’s time for you to consider whether or not you will stand firm with the fathers of our faith in joining Josuah in saying: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”